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Capitol Insurrection Inspires California NPO Revocation Bill

A bill within the California Senate would authorize suspension of the tax-exempt status of any nonprofit that “[p]romotes, engages in, commits to, supports, or aids insurrection against the United States or any state in the Union, at any time, past or present.”

The bill, SB 834, would similarly authorize suspension of tax-exempt status to any nonprofit that “[P]romotes, engages in, commits to, supports, or aids in any effort to overturn democratic election results or obstruct the peaceful transfer of power.”

SB 834 was introduced by state senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) in early January in response to the violent disruption of the Jan. 6, 2021 presidential election electoral vote certification process in Washington, D.C.

“Nonprofits that fundraise off of the insurrection and that are working to overthrow our government and dismantle our democracy should not receive privileged tax status,” Wiener said via a statement. “These poisonous organizations are attacking the heart of our nation and cynically scamming people and preying on their fears and misunderstandings. Nonprofits that conduct and support illegal activity — like insurrections — should not benefit from the privilege of tax-exempt status. SB 834 is one step on a long path toward accountability for those who perpetrated the January 6 insurrection and who run the movement to overthrow American democracy.”

The bill is currently with the California Senate Rules Committee.

The bill has raised concerns within the Golden State’s nonprofit community. In an email, CalNonprofits Public Policy Director Lucy Salcido Carter wrote: “While CalNonprofits opposes insurrection, we do have concerns about SB 834 (Wiener) in its current form. We don’t want legitimate freedoms/activities by nonprofits to be curtailed. We recognize that Senator Wiener is aware of the challenges in defining which activities would be covered under this bill. We have connected with Senator Wiener’s office and raised our concerns and hope to engage with his office in further conversations about the bill.”

Asked what the reaction from Wiener to CalNonprofits’ concerns had been, Salcido Carter wrote: “They (Senator Wiener and staff) are aware of what the senator describes as ‘threading that needle’ to ensure protected activities aren’t affected by the bill, and they are looking forward to working with us to address our concerns.”

SB 834 was been introduced with summary intent language, with full bill language expected by early- to mid-February. The bill’s co-authors include senators Josh Becker (D-Peninsula), Dave Min (D-Irvine) and Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), Additionally, Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) is a principal co-author. The bill’s text is available here:  https://bit.ly/3KahDIF

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